Returning Citizens Fill Labor Gap in Manufacturing Industry

On the heels of tremendous growth in the manufacturing industry over the past couple decades, the demand for workers is high. According to a study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, in the next decade manufacturers will seek to fill 4.6 million jobs…but 2.4 million are expected to go unfulfilled. Fewer and fewer parents are directing their kids towards a manufacturing career despite the advancements in technology with AI and robotics and the manufacturing labor population is aging. In fact, 27% of manufacturing workers are expected to retire in the next 10 years. It’s no wonder the manufacturing industry is experiencing a critical labor shortage – and one that’s expected to get worse.

Over 700,000 people are released from prison each year and the vast majority are seeking jobs in the workforce. Unfortunately, a criminal record is a showstopper for many employers and, unemployed, many former felons end up back in addiction, jail or worse. In response to this shortage, more and more companies are soliciting former felons, or returning citizens, to fill these positions.

In 2018, President Trump signed the “Getting Back to Work” pledge. Companies that choose to take this pledge agree to hire based on talent, not on a person’s criminal record. Additionally, 29 states have passed “ban the box” laws that prohibit employers from running criminal background checks until further into the application process. These two forces are giving returning citizens a greater chance at a bright future and the manufacturing industry is benefiting immensely.

Richard Palmer, president of Nehemiah Manufacturing, saw the challenge returning citizens face as well as the manufacturing industry’s labor shortage and came up with an idea. He started a manufacturing company that specifically hires returning citizens and the response has been overwhelming. Not only is turnover at Nehemiah Manufacturing less than 20% – about one-third of what most manufacturing companies experience – but he exclaims that he found some of the hardest working people he ever encountered in his career. People who are “fiercely loyal – insistent on high quality; positive teamers who help each other; hard chargers who self-sacrifice for the success of all.” Learn more here!

Through numerous initiatives and through partnerships with private employers, nonprofits, legal services and religious organizations, returning citizens are receiving a second chance and making a profound impact in the national workforce. The growing commitment to hire returning citizens will only serve to decrease national unemployment and help close the labor gap in the manufacturing industry.